My friend Rachel died a little over a week ago. She was younger than I am with three kids and a husband. She had metastatic breast cancer, and we knew it would eventually cut her life short. But it still took me by surprise. The last time I saw her, we waved from our cars outside of the dance studio and rolled our eyes as our respective dogs went nuts at each other from inside the vehicles. It was too cold to roll down the windows, so we didn’t talk. Not that it would have been particularly meaningful, but there it is.

Here’s what I want Rachel’s kids to know: Rachel will always remind me to be brave. She had absolutely no shame in her game. She always spoke her mind (for better or worse), and laughed the loudest. When we worked together at the clinic, she would bust out Zumba moves in the work area between patients. I believe there was even some floor work at times. She lived out loud.

Here’s the memory that I want to treasure forever and give to her kids. We were at a dance competition as dance moms, cheering on our daughters. Before they started announcing awards, the organizers turned up the lights and blasted dance music into the hotel ballroom. One of Rachel’s jams came on. I can’t remember the song, and I am pretty sure that nearly anything could be Rachel’s jam. She hopped up and danced to the front of the room where the girls sat, hands in the air, wagging her booty, much to her daughter’s embarrassment and the other moms’ delight. Now, I will occasionally bust a move from my seat, but she took it to the next level, laughing loudly and not giving a hoot who saw her. That’s how I’m always go to remember Rachel. Fearless, shameless, brave.

I’ve needed some of that spirit lately as I dipped my toe into the local political waters, where people aren’t always kind and thoughtful. But whenever I start to falter and worry about what people might say, I summon up that memory of Rachel, raising the roof with the girls, under the glittering chandelier of the hotel ballroom, while I sat in my seat filled envy at her complete disregard for it all.

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